Opinion shaping: financing media or think tanks in order to shape public opinion.
Reporters Without Borders is maintaining the Media Ownership Monitor, which publishes news and analysis on who owns the media in different countries. Highly recommended: their 2016 report on “Media: when oligarchs go shopping“.
Opinion shaping is one’s ability to change, form, and/or mold the viewpoint and perspectives of the public. This ability can take many forms, such as the media, rhetoric, consumer influence, ext. Billionaires’ wealth and power are significant advantages in their ability to shape opinions, if they so choose. This upper echelon of the super wealthy can influence the public through their philanthropy, speeches, political donations, or media influence/control. Arguably, the most effective way a billionaire could shape public opinion is by entering directly into politics, after all, most citizens have opinions about their politician’s actions and words (See Donald Trump*). However, billionaires can have extreme influence over politics without being directly involved, for example by donating very large sums to campaigns, Super Pacs, backing political movements, ext. This influence is often not known by the public or can be misrepresented through the way a billionaire donates his or her money (i.e. funneling his or her money through non-profits for political campaigns). Other billionaires choose to shape opinions by controlling parts of the media, another extremely powerful position. The media is a powerful tool that comes with much power and can be bought with money, a perfect outlet for billionaires who wish to have more control over the public’s political positions (See Sheldon Adelson*). Even if a billionaire is not so obvious in their opinion shaping, most billionaires use this power in some form, whether it be donating to political parities, non-profits or organizations, such as GreenPeace or the National Rifle Association, or shaping opinions through their speeches, public statements, interviews, or relationships with politicians. Many politicians also have their own non-profits to fight and represent their stances, such as George Soros’ Climate Policy Initiative or Warren Buffett’s Susan Buffett Thomason Foundation, which promotes higher education. There are still other billionaires who seem to have a very small interest in shaping the public’s opinion and keep their lives and political ideologies private, although their influence could be hidden through various mechanisms and unknown to the public.